Day Fifteen - September 17, 1997
Our Own Private Iowa
Dubuque, Iowa - Sioux City, Iowa
Mark was born in Spencer Iowa, so he's the Iowa expert. From the moment we arrived in Iowa, he has been right on. So far in the progression from east to west, we have enjoyed Illinois more than Indiana, and Iowa more than Illinois. Note that all three states start with the letter 'I'. Hmmm.
Yesterday we arrived early enough in the afternoon to beat an oncoming thunderstorm that had been making the weather so miserable. We were quite happy about this, because the front bringing the thunderstorm was headed east, and we're headed west, so that meant the entire storm was past us by morning. We decided to celebrate this bit of good fortune by taking in a movie. Right across the street from the motel was a theater complex that had, among others, 'Conspiracy Theory'. We noted the show times and decided on the 6:45 showing. We leave the room at about 6:30, and as we're walking the 1000 feet to the theater, the thunderstorm breaks loose. And I mean serious, dumping, wet rain. We ran as fast as we could to cover the last 500' but still we were drenched. After all that riding, we dodge the storm, and then get wet walking to a movie. Grrrr. We suspect a conspiracy.
Great movie, by the way.
This morning we were off and running by 7am. The temperature was in the mid-60's, and the weather was clear, dry and very pleasant. We headed straight west on highway 20 to traverse Iowa, allowing this really cool photo with the sun casting my shadow ahead of me.
It's great having the sun behind you in the morning. Instead of having the sun in our eyes, as we did on the west-east legs, it's now in our rear-view mirrors. But only for a while. And it's a great morning to ride.
It seems that we're finally back in the riding groove after several days off for the JerkFest, and then getting through Chicago. I know that Mark is back into it when he stops for some watertower shots. These are the first ones he's taken since we started back to Seattle.
Dyerville Iowa is the town where 'Field of Dreams' was shot. We can't pass this up. The site is off route 20, through town, and then another 3 miles out of town. It's pretty weird to be going through backroad farmland, wheat and corn, then all of a sudden come over a crest and see a perfectly manicured baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. But that's exactly what we saw. If you saw the movie, you have a mental image in your mind of what I'm talking about. What you don't have in mind is the souvenir stand just off camera. It's open from 9am - 7pm every day for your shopping convenience. Fortunately, we were there before they opened. There is a sign on the bulletin board next to the stand - "Rental bats and balls may not be taken on the infield - insurance requirements." The field adjoins two farm properties, so of course there are competing souvenir stands. Just down the road another enterprising farmer has a batter's cage and pitching machine set up for those frustrated by the insurance limitations of the real thing.
Mark has selected Butch's Big Q Cafe for the morning dining experience, in Quasqueton ("kwasKWEEton"). We pull up and we're not sure that Butch's is even open. But there are signs in the window that claim Butch is alive and well in there somewhere, so we park the bikes on the side of the building and open the door.
Inside it is dark, but there is a TV on and we can tell that someone is there. Butch, I presume, comes out from the back and spreads his hands as if to say, "sit anywhere". It's just us, so we pick a comfortable table, not too near the kitchen, close enough to the door, with a good view of the entire place. Every table and every chair in this place has come from a different yard sale. Butch apparently went to Vietnam, as there are many items of POW and MIA memorabilia on the walls, and red, white and blue motif throughout. He brings the coffee pot over and looks at us without saying a word. "Yes, please." He pours us each a cup, drops two menus on the table, and walks away. Then as an afterthought he returns and turns the light on over us, so that we can see the menus. The light is below a circular fan which slowly starts to spin. I'm beginning to wonder if Mark has lost his touch.
He comes back and just looks at us. We order the two eggs breakfast, he writes it down silently, and walks away. From the kitchen, he shouts "Where you from?" Mark tells him "Seattle" and he comes right back to the table. "I was stationed there before they shipped me overseas."
Another customer comes in, sits down after pouring himself a cup of coffee (maybe that was our mistake, we didn't know the protocol) and orders his usual. The phone rings. Butch answers it. "Bob, it's for you. I'll hold off cooking your eggs."
Butch comes back to the table. "What are you guys doing here?" Mark explains that one of the guidebooks had listed his very cafe as a place worth stopping. (The Big Q, and the tavern across the street, which we assumed was not yet open at 8:30am). Butch was amazed that his place was listed in a tour book and wanted to see it. Mark shows him and he lights up. He notices that the tavern across the street is listed too. "Hah, that's Bob's place. He had to run back across the street for something." So the tavern was open at 8:30. A complete transformation has taken this guy and now he's our best friend. He tells us how the local TV broadcasting aerial ("tallest structure in nine surrounding states!") fell over, twice. Made a real loud sound, louder than you'd think. He likes us. Bob has returned to resume his breakfast. Butch's cooking wasn't that good, but we sure were close with Bob and Butch by the time we leave. They're telling us the entire history of every building in town as we're backing out the door. "The Big Q used to be a barber shop! Right on this very spot!"
After breakfast we got tired of 20, so we decided to take county roads. This was a brilliant stroke on Mark's part, because they are generally in better shape, with far less traffic, and much more scenic, cutting through farm after farm. This is when the title for today's entry occurred to me "Our Own Private Iowa". We had the very best of the state, all to ourselves.
In Fort Dodge, we stop for gas and a water tower shot. I notice this sign at this gas station and can't help but take a picture of this unique combination of automotive services, no doubt finely tuned to the needs of his customers.
Greg Nolting, the proprietor, also is running for the City Council. He told me his platform is to run the drug dealers out of town. Yup, even in Iowa.
About thirty miles from our stopping point in Sioux City, we pass through Correctionville, Iowa. I have been waiting all day for this, even more curious about this than the Field of Dreams site. What in earth is Correctionville about? A town that's a penal colony? Do they manufacture prison accessories here? I stop to take the picture of the sign, which you will note conveniently sidesteps any mention of the town's origin or purpose. Mark rides off to shoot a Correctionville water tower, and I'm content with my theory that Correctionville is the largest provider of prison uniforms. But Mark spoils it by actually asking someone about the name of the town. It turns out that when they were laying out the latitude and longitude lines in the US, there were some errors introduced by the irregular curvature of the earth, you know, that kind of stuff, and they needed to fudge the numbers somewhere. And of course they memorialize this, instead of simply sweeping the evidence under the proverbial rug. And there you have it, Correctionville. I'm surprised my GPS didn't explode or something.
We arrive in Sioux City hot, tired, but happy to have another 350 miles put away. After checking in, we get directions to some local restaurants. We go to an Outback Steakhouse. I've never eaten in one of these before, so I ask the hostess if they have a full bar, since we are in need of some martinis. She looks over her shoulder and says "no, it looks like there are a couple of seats in there." If I wasn't so tired I'd probably fall down.
Tomorrow - Valentine Nebraska.